Surgical Tech Helpful Hints

Helpful Hints
written by T. Makin,
Surgical Tech Instructor, Dept. Chair


During your clinical experience when you are entering the room let the circulator introduce yourself to the circulator and let him/her know that you are a student.

When handing the gown to the surgeon tell him/her your name and that you are a student.  The surgeon will appreciate the information and will be more likely to teach you about the procedure as it goes along.

Be open to constructive criticism.  Use it as a learning opportunity. 

You will see some things that your preceptor may do, such as placement of the knife handle or how suture is loaded, that you did not see in school.  People do the same tasks differently.  If you see something that you like, try it.  If it works for you, you may want to make it a part of your routine.  If it does not work for you, try something else.  You can learn a lot by observing your preceptor.

When learning new instruments, it is sometimes hard to figure out the differences.  One way to do this is to handle the instrument with your eyes closed.  By doing this you can feel the difference without looking at the instrument.  Of course, you don’t want to do this with sharp instruments. 

You can also learn new instruments by dividing them into the category that they fit in, such as scissors.  Take all of the scissors out of the group and then learn them.  Do that with clamping instruments and retractors.  Small groups are easier to learn than large ones.

When learning to glove the first few times it may be difficult to put gloves on.  If you have problems with gloving, move to a larger size.  Once you have mastered gloving with the large glove, move back to the correct size.

During a procedure ask for a marking pen to label any medication, syringes, and specimens that you may have on your back table.  You can also make notes on your back table drape, such as, if the surgeon uses lap sponges to pack the bowel, how many he placed.

When handing a surgeon the local medication always let him know what you are handing him/her.  Also, if you change knife blades during a case, let the surgeon know that you have put a new blade on the handle.

During a procedure if you run low on lap sponges, a good rule of thumb is to ask the circulator for more when you have two left.  This gives you enough time to get the sponges and count them before you run out.

When passing suture, a good rule of thumb is to ask the surgeon if he will need more of the same type when you pass one suture and still have one left.  This is good for multi-packs or for multiple sutures of the same type.  That way the surgeon can decide if what he/she has is enough to finish the sewing he/she is doing.

When doing an abdominal case and you know that the surgeon is preparing to irrigate, check the temp of the solution.  If it is too cold ask the circulator for more.  If it is proper body temp, you should not feel it at all when you test it with your finger.


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